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XCAR: Audi RS Q3: The nearly car

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XCAR: Audi RS Q3: The nearly car

5:36 /

Audi's Q3 is a decent car, so the RS version should be pretty awesome. Should is the operative word here...

When I first saw the Audi RS Q3 at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, I praised its grilles, its vents, and its angriness. But I also asked why? What's the point in it? Why? See? The Audi Q3 launched in 2011 and is Audi's smallest ever SUV. It's essentially an A3 with some taller springs and a bit more presence. It's a car for people who want more space. It's something that's not hard to park. The RS Q3 is small, spacious, and rather good looking, but that RS badge means it's got something special about it. It means it's the ultimate version of the Q3, the best it can possibly be. It's treading the middle ground between subtle and look-at-me here, but its flashy grille, RS badging, and single oval tailpipe are all RS hallmarks but sort of. Don't RS cars usually have two oval tailpipes? Yes. Yes, they do. That single tailpipe kind of sets a theme for the whole car. Under here, you got a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine. That should be pretty good as one of those in the TT RS. Now, in the TT, it pushes out 355 brake horsepower. But in here, it's been pared down to 306. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's just not as much as it could be. The RS Q3's performance figures are pretty good. Knot to 62 takes 5.2 seconds and it will manage a limited 155 miles an hour. That's a performance to rival a Porsche Boxster which is a very, very good thing indeed. Still, I do wonder how much quicker it would be if it had that extra 50 horsepower. Anyway, the people who are buying the small premium SUVs are looking for something that's a cut above, something that makes them feel special. They've gotta be easy to drive and easy to enjoy. They've gotta be idiot-proof. The gearbox is Audi's S-tronic DSG twin clutch dewed at, and it is silky, silky smooth. There is one minor problem with it, though. It's that I do find a few times, if you're a little bit overzealous with the throttle when you're setting off, first gear can be really grabby and it kind of lurches you a little bit, but once you're going, it is very, very lovely. And if you put it into Sport mode, it hangs onto the gears for as long as it possibly can. I mean, it's great. You get that awesome 2.5-litre five-pot noise that accompanies it. It's just great. And then, every time the gearbox changes up, you get this [unk], I guess-- every time. It's kind of addictive. No matter how it is to drive, I do have a problem with it and it's a personal one. That's not strictly true. It's more with Audi, but put it like this, if you have a child that has a natural aptitude for football, would you only give it a basketball to play with? This engine is capable of so much more, but at the same time, it's actually quite old tech. The engine in the S3, the 2-litre turbo, has just about the same power and it's more efficient. In this, you can get 32 miles per gallon on the combined cycle, that's in the UK at least; whereas the S3, it manages 40. But the S3's engine may not be the most appropriate choice for this car. No, that would probably be the SQ5 diesel engine. It's got a 3-litre BiTDI engine that comes with more power and better economy, 41.5 mpg, but RS and diesel don't go together. And it probably wouldn't fit either. I like fast Audis. They float my boat. Get in, turn it on, hit the horizon, easy. But, in my mind, the RS Q3 isn't really an RS car or at least it shouldn't be one. And the RS cars are supposed to be the best evolution they can possibly be, whereas this, this has been throttled. Is it for economy reasons? Is it 'cause it would be faster than the S3? I don't know, but what I do know is that I still love the fact it exists. It's silly. It's small. It's got a ridiculous engine. It makes nice noises and it goes really, really quickly, but it also feels like a dilution of the RS name. And I also noted, for the first time, an RS car hasn't left me dribbling.

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